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Coyote Healing Excerpt from Chapter 4, The Medicine Wheel

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I tell patients this story, saying that the hero learns that the man also had a dream of a mystical house in a mysterious land and has pursued that dream until he found the house. To their amazement, their experiences are virtually identical. They discover that each has dreamed the other's house. But, why? What was so special about each of our houses, the men asked each other, gradually becoming aware as they continue talking of how profoundly each has changed as a result of the journey. In the telling of their tales, they gained entry, each to the other's soul, through the gateway of the eye. They realize that their internal changes were much more important than the destination (outcome) of the journey. Without a destination, they would never have made the journey.

"The healing journey is similar," I say.

"Without a destination (the image of what we want, be it health, justice, or democracy), we wouldn't undertake a perilous journey. The changes happening within us while on the journey become more important than the destination. Hope is the sense that we will reach the destination."

"Without hope, we would give up and go home," I say. "The opposite of hope is not false hope, but despair."

Hope keeps us on the journey, even when the outcome of the journey is contrary to our wishes, or uncertain. I always want to make patients happy, to speak the answer that would comfort the most, but also to always tell the truth.

Life is a journey, and the intensive healing format within which I work provides a structure for that journey. The illness provides an impetus for the journey and a destination.

The story of Moses presents a series of miracles that led to the release of his people from bondage in Egypt, including the spectacular parting of the Red Sea to let the people flee Pharoah's army. Moses found his miracles by following God's instructions to the letter, but can we? And what do we do, if we don't? Can we still find healing?

Being on a healing journey provides us with the resources and awareness to face decisions, including how to reconcile the conflicting prescriptions of oncologists and herbalists, of naturopaths and physicians. Or how do we reconcile the inner message of the body versus the demands of the doctors for one more round of chemotherapy, to decide when enough is enough? No one can help with that decision, which every patient must make, despite the advice of his or her physicians.

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)
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